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Whataburger sues Whataburger of NC/SC over name

Started by snowc, June 26, 2024, 10:05:19 AM

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snowc

QuoteA four-ounce patty topped with coleslaw, chili and mustard on a bun, fries on the side, and a Witch Doctor — a mix of Coke, Sun Drop, cherry Fanta, pickle juice and pickle slices — to wash it all down.

It's a combo that has long been on the menu at a beloved, family-owned North Carolina restaurant called What-A-Burger, and one Stephen Ray, who lives an hour away, says is worth every minute of the drive.

Since moving to Tega Cay, S.C., four years ago, he has come to relish the unusual meal — and how the decades-old burger spot has become a treasured gathering point.

"Grandparents to grandchildren, they all come together on the weekends," Ray said. "You can tell how comfortable they all feel there."
Now he worries for the future of the local haunt. This month, the Texas-based corporate chain Whataburger sued What-A-Burger #13, the North Carolina company operating two burger joints in Mt. Pleasant and Locust, for trademark infringement, unfair competition and breach of contract.

The similarly named eateries say they previously had a confidential agreement. But now, as Whataburger (the private-equity owned chain of roughly a thousand locations stylized as one word) gets ready to expand into North Carolina, it claims that What-A-Burger #13 (the local spot with the hyphens and capitalized letters) has violated the 2023 terms.

The lawsuit asks that the smaller eatery be barred from using the What-A-Burger #13 name or any other that is "confusingly similar" to Whataburger.

FULL ARTICLE HERE
Welp, there goes the ability to head to Whataburger!
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hotdogPi

I can't read the Washington Post article because it's paywalled, but precedent says the local one is allowed to keep its name. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burger_King_(Mattoon,_Illinois)
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roadman65

#2
Technically only the trademark with the name displayed is patented. Anyone can choose a name even if it's used elsewhere. Don't use the trademark logo with or without the name.

In Niagara Falls, ON a motel owner chose the name Holiday Inn. Nothing happened to the owner, but Holiday Inn directories posted a disclaimer on the Niagara Falls locations page that that particular motel was not part of the same Holiday Inn system. 

However the disclaimer was to deter people from using the Holiday Inn Reservations line to book a room there, for reservations agents wouldn't be able to do so.
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Road Hog

#3
I don't know how the one in Russellville, AR was able to keep its name, but they are known as Feltner's Whatta-Burger (with two T's and a hyphen). One of the go-to burger joints in the whole state.

Founded in 1967 apparently, thought they were around longer than that.

roadman65

I remember Marriot had a Big Boy Franchise that had to specify it was Bob's Big Boy and not Big Boy even though they all served the same items.

Shoneys too had the Big Boy when they participated in the franchise.  It was Shoneys Big Boy up until Shoneys receded from the franchise so they could expand into other markets that Big Boy wouldn't allow them to.
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Hunty2022

My opinion:
The restaurant (local What-A-Burger) that's in a certain area first deserves to keep the name it had before a similarly-named, usually big-chain restaurant (Whataburger) comes in.
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roadman65

#9
Quote from: Hunty2022 on June 26, 2024, 08:01:11 PMMy opinion:
The restaurant (local What-A-Burger) that's in a certain area first deserves to keep the name it had before a similarly-named, usually big-chain restaurant (Whataburger) comes in.

He might of did it so customers would not ask for the big chain specials as I'm sure some did.  So he wanted to avoid ambiguity.  Not so much cave into the bigger chain.

Not to mention even at non participating McDonalds in advertisements, probably have weary employees of hearing the same questions asked such as " Why don't you have the special advertised item for that specific price." Etc. Etc.

I know I ran into issues working in a franchised Pizza Hut Express. We had a very limited menu and participated in no Pizza Hut promos. I got asked constantly why we didn't have the corporate TV specials. Finally had to say " Because we're not a participating Pizza Hut in a monotone voice. If they still wanted to know, I just said " because we don't" in a take it or leave it tone.
Every day is a winding road, you just got to get used to it.

Sheryl Crowe

vdeane

Quote from: roadman65 on June 26, 2024, 08:08:33 PM
Quote from: Hunty2022 on June 26, 2024, 08:01:11 PMMy opinion:
The restaurant (local What-A-Burger) that's in a certain area first deserves to keep the name it had before a similarly-named, usually big-chain restaurant (Whataburger) comes in.

He might of did it so customers would not ask for the big chain specials as I'm sure some did.  So he wanted to avoid ambiguity.  Not so much cave into the bigger chain.

Not to mention even at non participating McDonalds in advertisements, probably have weary employees of hearing the same questions asked such as " Why don't you have the special advertised item for that specific price." Etc. Etc.

I know I ran into issues working in a franchised Pizza Hut Express. We had a very limited menu and participated in no Pizza Hut promos. I got asked constantly why we didn't have the corporate TV specials. Finally had to say " Because we're not a participating Pizza Hut in a monotone voice. If they still wanted to know, I just said " because we don't" in a take it or leave it tone.
I feel like there's a difference between an unrelated restaurant with a similar name because the big chain moved in later and a franchise that's choosing not to participate in some special.  Most people neither know nor care about the difference between franchised vs. corporate-owned.  To them, a Pizza Hut is a Pizza Hut is a Pizza Hut.
Please note: All comments here represent my own personal opinion and do not reflect the official position of NYSDOT or its affiliates.

Henry

There also was a What-a-Burger based out of VA, but it hasn't done as well as its NC namesakes, having closed all but one (in Newport News, although a couple of Richmond-area locations have now assumed different names).
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gonealookin

Quote from: LilianaUwU on June 26, 2024, 06:17:06 PM
Quote from: hotdogPi on June 26, 2024, 10:53:14 AMhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burger_King_(Mattoon,_Illinois)
If I had a nickel for every unrelated Burger King, I'd have two nickels.

I know "Burger Queen" was a thing for many years.  There's still an independent drive-in type place going by the name "Burger Queen" in Lakeview, Oregon.  There aren't a whole lot of food choices for a long stretch on US 395 in northern California and southern Oregon; that's one of the better ones.

epzik8

Quote from: vdeane on June 26, 2024, 09:27:54 PM
Quote from: roadman65 on June 26, 2024, 08:08:33 PM
Quote from: Hunty2022 on June 26, 2024, 08:01:11 PMMy opinion:
The restaurant (local What-A-Burger) that's in a certain area first deserves to keep the name it had before a similarly-named, usually big-chain restaurant (Whataburger) comes in.

He might of did it so customers would not ask for the big chain specials as I'm sure some did.  So he wanted to avoid ambiguity.  Not so much cave into the bigger chain.

Not to mention even at non participating McDonalds in advertisements, probably have weary employees of hearing the same questions asked such as " Why don't you have the special advertised item for that specific price." Etc. Etc.

I know I ran into issues working in a franchised Pizza Hut Express. We had a very limited menu and participated in no Pizza Hut promos. I got asked constantly why we didn't have the corporate TV specials. Finally had to say " Because we're not a participating Pizza Hut in a monotone voice. If they still wanted to know, I just said " because we don't" in a take it or leave it tone.
I feel like there's a difference between an unrelated restaurant with a similar name because the big chain moved in later and a franchise that's choosing not to participate in some special.  Most people neither know nor care about the difference between franchised vs. corporate-owned.  To them, a Pizza Hut is a Pizza Hut is a Pizza Hut.

I only learned this working at a franchised McDonald's a couple of years ago.
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Quote from: Henry on June 26, 2024, 11:02:32 PMThere also was a What-a-Burger based out of VA, but it hasn't done as well as its NC namesakes, having closed all but one (in Newport News, although a couple of Richmond-area locations have now assumed different names).

You're misinformed. The Richmond-area ones still have the What-A-Burger name. They were founded around the same time as the Texas chain. I know of three locations still around; one did close about 10 years ago when a Cook Out opened nearby.
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roadman65

Quote from: vdeane on June 26, 2024, 09:27:54 PM
Quote from: roadman65 on June 26, 2024, 08:08:33 PM
Quote from: Hunty2022 on June 26, 2024, 08:01:11 PMMy opinion:
The restaurant (local What-A-Burger) that's in a certain area first deserves to keep the name it had before a similarly-named, usually big-chain restaurant (Whataburger) comes in.

He might of did it so customers would not ask for the big chain specials as I'm sure some did.  So he wanted to avoid ambiguity.  Not so much cave into the bigger chain.

Not to mention even at non participating McDonalds in advertisements, probably have weary employees of hearing the same questions asked such as " Why don't you have the special advertised item for that specific price." Etc. Etc.

I know I ran into issues working in a franchised Pizza Hut Express. We had a very limited menu and participated in no Pizza Hut promos. I got asked constantly why we didn't have the corporate TV specials. Finally had to say " Because we're not a participating Pizza Hut in a monotone voice. If they still wanted to know, I just said " because we don't" in a take it or leave it tone.
I feel like there's a difference between an unrelated restaurant with a similar name because the big chain moved in later and a franchise that's choosing not to participate in some special.  Most people neither know nor care about the difference between franchised vs. corporate-owned.  To them, a Pizza Hut is a Pizza Hut is a Pizza Hut.

I was responding to someone else's opinion on the Whataburger in question should remain.  I think he felt that the chain is giving in, and I felt that maybe they didn't want their customers to be confused. After all some people don't care about Whataburger's ownership. Just that they're eating at one. Being these two Whataburgers don't have the same menu, I'm sure some will complain.

I worked in the restaurant industry, so I know what stupid questions or complaints the public has.
Every day is a winding road, you just got to get used to it.

Sheryl Crowe

vdeane

Quote from: roadman65 on June 28, 2024, 08:46:37 AMI was responding to someone else's opinion on the Whataburger in question should remain.  I think he felt that the chain is giving in, and I felt that maybe they didn't want their customers to be confused. After all some people don't care about Whataburger's ownership. Just that they're eating at one. Being these two Whataburgers don't have the same menu, I'm sure some will complain.

I worked in the restaurant industry, so I know what stupid questions or complaints the public has.
None of what you said just now changes my point.  There is a difference between a restaurant franchise, which, for all intents and purposes, is a part of the chain; outside of some inside baseball over who manages the location and what their internal relationship to the rest of the chain is, they are 100% indistinguishable from corporate-owned locations, and a separate restaurant.  This is the latter.  Whataburger and What-A-Burger are separate restaurants with separate, although very similar names, presumably different-looking interiors, etc.  Contrast this to your standard McDonald's franchise, which is aesthetically and functionally indistinguishable from any other McDonald's, regardless of the ownership inside baseball.  Quite honestly, I would be disappointed too if a promotion wasn't honored at a particular one, and I'm aware of these weird inside baseball things and that they say "participating locations only" in fine print.  In fact, maybe the franchises should be required to participate in such promotions, in the name of chain uniformity.  As for someone not being able to tell the difference between a Pizza Hut Express and a regular Pizza Hut, there isn't much that can be done to help them.  One is a glorified food court stand; the other is a full sit-down restaurant.

And why should the local restaurant have to change their name just because the chain wants to move in?  They were there first.  It should be up to the chain to (ethically) deal with that, not the locals who have been there the whole time.  If I were a judge looking over this, I'd say "What-A-Burger was there first, therefore Whataburger can either drop all claims or they must use a different name/brand for any locations within 100 miles of What-A-Burger".  Then they can choose to acknowledge the supremacy of the locals who are already there, use a different brand to avoid confusion, or stay out of the area entirely.  Honestly, that last one is probably the best option, especially as this issue has left me with a very bad impression of Whataburger.  The whole saga with the deal strikes me as "we were fine with this until we decided to expand in that area, so now we're going to make up claims of violations to bully them into changing their name".

Also, perhaps the thread title (and maybe the OP too) could be edited to be accurate instead of just repeating the name of the chain in place of the local restaurant?
Please note: All comments here represent my own personal opinion and do not reflect the official position of NYSDOT or its affiliates.

Max Rockatansky


jb_va23

This topic reminded me of how much I miss Whataburger. From a born and bred Okie to living on the east coast, there aren't a lot of things I miss from Oklahoma. However, the fast food options I grew up with are one of the few things that I do miss. Whatabuger is so good.... breakfast especially



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